A fear is sweeping over official Washington. Like teenagers whose lenient parents have let them get away with way too much over the years, Washington's political class is afraid that this time the voters really mean to give the politicians what they deserve.
Both Democratic and Republican voters are unhappy and have shown great reluctance to accept the supposed inevitability of a Clinton-Bush presidential election. Democratic voters don't have many ways to express their frustration, but Republicans have lots of choices.
And that's what's scaring the politicians.
The fear was expressed in a recent column by Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post entitled, "The Republican Establishment is in DEEP trouble." Cillizza is a good writer and also a good measure of the conventional wisdom among the political class.
You can almost feel the fear in his column — are the parents really coming home?
The news in his column is not that Republican voters distrust the GOP establishment. That's been true for years if not decades. The newsworthy item is a suggestion that many in D.C. now worry that the distrust is spinning out of control.
In fact, in what would be truly horrifying to some, the voters might be angry enough to put an outsider in the White House. Along the way, the column inadvertently revealed the condescending way that the political class views the voters.
Cillizza is astounded by the notion that most Republican voters seem to want someone with no political experience for president. This is so shocking to a D.C. insider that the Post writer encourages his readers to pause and "let that sink in for a minute."
The reason for the fear is that Cillizza and presumably those he sees on a regular basis don't think there's much the Republican establishment can do to stop the outsiders.
There's only one hope, he opines. Maybe, before the voting begins, "Republican voters will . . . think more with their heads and less with their hearts." Wow.
So, if Republican voters nominate someone Cillizza and the insiders believe is appropriate, the voters are thinking with their heads. If voters don't go along with the political class selection, they are thinking with their hearts.
Talk about arrogance. That's just another way of saying that Washington knows best and the role of voters is to follow the lead of their betters.
I understand that many in Washington hold this view. A lot of teenagers also believe the world would be better if they were in charge. But in both cases, it's wrong.
Republican voters, thinking with their heads, are unhappy with the way Washington works. They have good reason to be unhappy and understandably want to change the badly broken political system. And they're not just looking for little tweaks here and there.
They want to shake up and overturn a political class widely seen as corrupt and self-serving. Republican voters have been sending this message loud and clear for decades, but Republican office holders have delivered little or no change.
When thinking with their hearts, Republican voters like many of the establishment candidates. They have a fondness for the Bush family and some of the other traditional candidates. But they also know such candidates will protect the status quo rather than change it.
Scott Rasmussen is founder and president of the Rasmussen Media Group. He is the author of “Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System,” “In Search of Self-Governance,” and “The People’s Money: How Voters Will Balance the Budget and Eliminate the Federal Debt.” Read more reports from Scott Rasmussen — Click Here Now.